292 THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD
write the same word in the two types on the same label. But the
children forestalled me. There was in the school a calendar on
which many words were written in printed characters and some
in Gothic characters. In their mania for reading, some children
began to look at this calendar, and to my indescribable surprise,
they read both the printed and the Gothic matter.
So we had nothing more to do but present them with a book;
in fact, they read the words in it. At first, in the Children's
Houses, I gave only one kind of book, one in which, under the
figures of all the objects they had seen, were printed the names.
The mothers at once profited by the progress of the Children.
We actually surprised in the pockets of some of them pieces of
paper roughly covered with the prices of things—macaroni, bread,
salt, etc.: some of our little ones were going marketing with the
note! The parents told us that their children no longer hurried
along the street, because they stopped to read the shop signs.
Educated according to this method in a private house, a child,
a little marquis of four and a half, did the following. His father,
a member of parliament, received a great deal of correspondence.
He knew that his child had begun exercises two months before,
and that they were enabling him to read and write at a precocious
age; but he did not pay much attention, and had not much faith
in the assertions. One day the marquis was reading and the child
was playing near him when a servant entered and placed on the
table the voluminous correspondence which had just come by post.
The little one turned his attention to it, began to turn over
the letters and to read aloud all the addresses. The marquis
thought it was almost a miracle.
It may be asked what is the average time which is needed for
learning to read. Experience tells us that, counting from the
moment at which the child can write, the passage from this lower
form of written language to the higher one of reading is on an
average about fifteen days. Accuracy in reading, however, almost
always comes later than perfection in writing. In most cases the
child writes very well and reads just fairly well.